“I love people. People, Fascinate me and for as long as I can remember, I have reflexively analyzed the behavior of myself and others. On entering university there was no question in my mind that I would major in psychology. Even today I am always thinking about thinking and asking the question, “Why do people do what they do?”

So begins the book, “Popularity Explained: The Social Psychology of Grade School” which I wrote and published as an undergraduate student. As a telling explanation for “why?”, this quote is as relevant to the book as it is to this website. As a physician, I am thrilled with the privileged of interviewing countless patients: each with their own unique personhood & story.

Celebrity Fanalyzer is, at its simplest, just an extension of my natural curiosity and instinct to over analyze. As a website, I hope readers find it as interesting as I do and the content uniquely insightful. The premise is simple and needs no explanation beyond the rules posted to the home page:

  1. Every month there is a question prompt to set off an essay competition.
  2. The criteria for winning is an open formula published alongside each month’s prompt.
  3. The winner is chosen, the prize paid, and the competition re-run.

Though this might prove interesting in and of itself, I am proud to state that Celebrity Fanalyzer is, in fact, so much more.

To begin with, you’ll note that each competition is headed by a custom art piece. The book, Popularity Explained, was, originally, scribbles in a journal that I kept since the earliest days of junior high (pictured above). In it, I would sketch fanciful and occasionally elaborate representations of a scene, or symbol, followed by surrounding scribbles dedicated to understanding what I was witnessing. To this day, visual art is a skill I have not had time to develop. Still, when I see stunning visual art, it brings back good memories. It is a pleasure, and a joy, to see the art submitted to each competition.

Beyond even it’s purpose as a showroom for clever / interesting essays and visual artistry though, Celebrity Fanalyzer is still, so much more. As a website, it is but the first iteration of a multi year endeavour to produce what I refer to as, an “anthroscope.” Let me explain.

An “anthroscope”, like any scope (e.g., telescope, microscope, oscilloscope, etc.), is designed to give its users the capacity to view something with new perspective. To function, an anthroscope will leverage modern statistical analyses and big data to produce clever visuals reflecting the opinion scape of any particular topic: i.e., an “anthrogram.” Anthrograms should, if done correctly, make obvious the inherent biases of each viewer and, from this new perspective, an individual can infer their own truth.

A personal anecdote should make the point of what I mean by “anthrogram” and its utility: I like everyone else, am a product of my surroundings and, though I perceive myself as an unbiased observer of the truth, such a thing is never possible. This fact struck me one evening while watching a YouTuber discuss the commonly held opinions of Canadians across the country. When he spoke about Albertans (myself on of them) I was so amazed at how thoroughly he described my opinions that the notion he and I had at some distant time met actually crossed my mind! Of course, any such notion is an absurdity. It is not that he knew me, but rather new the context in which I grew up: Southern Alberta. To this fact alone could my biases be traced. “How telling,” I immediately thought to myself, “would it be to have all content on the Internet accompanied by unfettered meta statistics?”

Celebrity Fanalyzer cannot produce anthrograms. To do this, a technological solution which scrubs user data of all identifiers is necessary. Thankfully, such a technology exists though not in a usable form. By this, I am referring to virtual private networks, or VPNs, which have the capacity to anonymize user data appropriately but, unfortunately, impose the set up and maintenance cost on the end user limiting frictionless scalability. As such, my intention is to eventually finance a dev lab dedicated to deploying an anonymizing reverse proxy that splits a user’s true identity from their content choices on the Internet. Those who study end-to-end encryption will know that the primary problem with any such scheme in the browser is private key management. The solution I’m working on currently has its challenges certainly. Thankfully though, impressive advances in technologies such as web assembly language hold tremendous promise. I refer to this system under development as Layer 8 and, once developed, it is to be deployed as a commercial API for content producers who actually only want anonymized user data (think healthcare apps where private health data is effectively toxic waste). Layer 8 will immediately have, as it’s first customer, Celebrity Fanalyzer though not for long as the only customer.

Popularity Explained, though a book undeniably full of teenage angst, was, unbeknownst to me, my first exposure to Complexity Theory. Popularity is, once mapped on the social landscape, what the father of Complexity Theory, Edward Lorenz, would have referred to as a “strange attractor”: a ghostly geometric entity with recognizable shape but composed of elements with infinitely variable detail. The phenomenon of popularity across generations and cultures is, arguably, one of the least appreciated examples of Complexity Theory; that is, how recognizable social patterns build from the actions of loosely coupled, themselves unique, individuals who are following no central plan or design. Sadly, I have no time to return to university and pursue research on such social patterns as they exist in wider society and not just in high school. Instead, I must satisfy myself with the next stage of Celebrity Fanalyzer’s intended evolution. Upon completion of the anonymizing reverse proxy, ‘Layer 8’, this website is to be recast as general news website entitled “Globe & Citizen.”

Though following approximately the same mechanics as it’s simple forebearer, Globe & Citizen is to be an anthroscope in the fullest meaning of the word: by coming preconfigured to receive fully anonymized user data thanks to Layer 8, it will produce anthrograms that I can only hope are just as beautiful and aesthetically pleasing as Lorenz’s famous butterfly (perhaps the best known symbol of Complexity Theory). Of course, as implied by the projects title, instead of celebrities, Globe & Citizen will deal with topics such as climate change, inflation, COVID vaccines, and so much more. Inspired by the microcosm that was my high school, I want to see the “strange attractors” human society builds. I want to know their shapes and analyze their curves!

Assuming the above is not enough of an explanation, there are other meta projects that I am exploring through Celebrity Fanalyzer. Namely, the exploration of distributed and remote work environments as a new organizational form… Clearly though, an answer to the question “why” I put this website together could go on and on recursively. Perhaps it would have been enough to simply state: people are fascinating, celebrity gossip is tantalizing, and competitions are fun. Besides, any project fully embraced is secretly a grand adventure so, why not? Let the Fanalyzing begin.



Dr. Ravi Seyed-Mahmoud — would be web programmer, failed pianist, one time visual artist, occasional entrepreneur, arm chair sociologist, closet author, and a full time G.P.
Portrait Credit: Iana Z.